The most recommended books about American Indians

Who picked these books? Meet our 236 experts.

236 authors created a book list connected to American Indians, and here are their favorite American Indians books.
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Book cover of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West

Stephen L. Pevar Author Of The Rights of Indians and Tribes

From my list on rights of Indian tribes and their members.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1971, when I graduated from law school, I received a fellowship to help staff a Legal Aid office on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I lived there for nearly four years, representing tribal members in tribal, state, and federal courts. I then worked for 45 years on the National Legal Staff of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). One of my major responsibilities was helping Indian tribes and their members protect and enforce their rights, and I filed numerous cases on their behalf. During that time, I taught Federal Indian Law for more than 20 years and also published The Rights of Indians and Tribes. 

Stephen's book list on rights of Indian tribes and their members

Stephen L. Pevar Why did Stephen love this book?

In 1971, I accepted a job as a Legal Aid lawyer on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and I wanted to prepare myself for reservation life. One way to do that was to read this book.

This book chronicles the lies, the massacres, the broken treaties, and the deplorable conditions to which our government subjected the Indigenous peoples. This book opened my eyes and helped prepare me for the suspicion I faced during the nearly four years I lived and worked on the Reservation. 

By Dee Brown,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The American West, 1860-1890: years of broken promises, disillusionment, war and massacre.

Beginning with the Long Walk of the Navajos and ending with the massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee, this extraordinary book tells how the American Indians lost their land, lives and liberty to white settlers pushing westward. Woven into a an engrossing saga of cruelty, treachery and violence are the fascinating stories of such legendary figures as Sitting Bull, Cochise, Crazy Horse and Geronimo.

First published in 1970, Dee Brown's brutal and compelling narrative changed the way people thought about the original inhabitants of America, and focused attention…


Book cover of Dead in the West

Edward M. Erdelac Author Of High Planes Drifter

From my list on for those who like their westerns weird.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated by westerns when my parents took me on vacation to Deadwood, South Dakota and I came home with a brace of toy six-shooters and a book called The Gunfighters by Lea F McCarty, which featured bios of various notorious westerners, from Billy The Kid to Calamity Jane. I eventually left Clayton Moore and The Cisco Kid behind for Sergio Leone. I had a strong interest in ghost stories, and it was Robert E. Howard that gave me the bug for the weird western genre. I wrote two straight-up western novels, Buff Tea and Coyote’s Trail, but I didn’t find an audience until I started injecting my stories with ghoulies. 

Edward's book list on for those who like their westerns weird

Edward M. Erdelac Why did Edward love this book?

If Howard is the father of the weird western, Joe Lansdale is the godfather. The trope of the wronged Native American shaman afflicting a frontier town with an undead plague has surely been used time and time again in the genre, but this is the original and best iteration. Joe’s Texas dialogue pops like a bullwhip cracking on a skeletal mule’s vertebrae and you can smell the iron and gunsmoke in his prose. He establishes his reputation with this book and in my opinion, cements it with the Jonah Hex weird western comics Two-Gun Mojo and Riders of The Worm and Such.

By Joe R. Lansdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dead in the West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dead in the West is the story of Mud Creek, Texas, a town overshadowed by a terrible evil. An Indian medicine man, unjustly lynched by the people of Mud Creek, has put a curse on the town. As the sun sets, he will have his revenge. For when darkness falls, the dead will walk in Mud Creek and they will be hungry for human flesh. The only one that can save the town is Reverend Jebediah Mercer, a gun toting preacher man who came to Mud Creek to escape his past. He has lost his faith in the Lord and…


Book cover of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present

David B. Allison Author Of Controversial Monuments and Memorials: A Guide for Community Leaders

From my list on memory that make you question how you see the past.

Why am I passionate about this?

Memory is capricious and impacts our view of the past. That’s why I do what I do! I am a twenty-year museum professional who began my career at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, worked at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science for almost ten years, and am now part of the Arts & History department at the City and County of Broomfield. I have designed and developed programs and events, as well as managed teams in each of these stops. I seek to illuminate stories, elevate critical voices, and advocate for equity through the unique pathways of the arts, history, and museum magic.

David's book list on memory that make you question how you see the past

David B. Allison Why did David love this book?

Dee Brown’s landmark 1970 book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee provided a beautiful and much-needed antidote to the ‘march of the pioneers’ and Manifest Destiny narratives that held sway over much of the history of the western United States from 1850s-1890.

Over time, however, Brown’s book (and more specifically the massacre at Wounded Knee) became calcified as the ‘end point’ of histories about indigenous people. Treuer challenges this perspective by showcasing native resistance, resilience, and flourishing in the wake of Wounded Knee. Indigenous history is deep, varied, and filled with fascinating people and events—Treuer shows us how to find hope and joy in history even though there is also profound pain.

By David Treuer,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR THE 2019 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Named a best book of 2019 by The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, NPR, Hudson Booksellers, The New York Public Library, The Dallas Morning News, and Library Journal.

"Chapter after chapter, it's like one shattered myth after another." - NPR

"An informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait... Treuer's powerful book suggests the need for soul-searching about the meanings of American history and the stories we tell ourselves about this nation's past.." - New York Times Book Review, front…


Book cover of From the Deep Woods to Civilization

Jordan Neben Author Of A Lot of Questions, with No Answers

From Jordan's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mountain biker Gamer Inquisitive

Jordan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Jordan Neben Why did Jordan love this book?

From the Deep Woods is a book about the author’s spiritual and intellectual journey through his life in the late 19th and early 20th century. Charles Eastmen was a Native American who received a college education on the east coast and eventually became a doctor working on reservations in the Midwest.

I was fascinated by this book, but it also made me a little sad. Eastman’s commentary on the American society of his time was incredibly wise and insightful. However, much of Eastman’s critiques and observations would be just as poignant and just as relevant today as when this book was first written in the early 20th century.   

By Charles Alexander Eastman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Deep Woods to Civilization as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Has a many-sided appeal …. This stimulating book is one of the few that really deserve the over-worked term, a human document." — Publishers Weekly.
In the first of his memoirs, the popular Indian Boyhood, Charles Alexander Eastman recounted his traditional upbringing among the Santee Sioux. From the Deep Woods to Civilization resumes his story, recounting his abrupt departure from tribal life at age 15 to pursue his education among whites — a path that led him to certification as a medical doctor, the publication of many successful books, and a lifetime of tireless efforts to benefit his native culture.…


Book cover of Smoke Signals

Don Dupay Author Of Behind the Badge in River City: A Portland Police Memoir

From my list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a longtime writer and author, who basically learned the craft of writing from over 17 years with the Portland Police Bureau. Some of the best writers are working and retired police officers because, when you write those daily reports or detailed investigative reports, you learn how to write. I've written six books, two of which have been published by Oregon Greystone Press, the Indie Publishing company operated by my wife, Theresa. I graduated from Portland State University in 2017 and was listed in the commencement program as “the oldest PSU graduate” of that year. I was 80. I live in Portland with my wife, Theresa, also a writer and author. 

Don's book list on getting people thinking about the bigger picture

Don Dupay Why did Don love this book?

This is a book that shares intimate glimpses into the lives of a handful of Native Americans living on an Indian Reservation in the late 20th century. The book is full of humor, irony, and wit and was later made into a popular film. There are moments that are amusing and funny, but loneliness and a sense of apathy make their way into the storyline as well, as Victor, the lead character, tries to navigate the unpredictable family life he finds himself in. As a small boy he witnesses the damaging effects of alcoholism and what it does to his father and other family members, much like Sherman Alexie did himself. Victor is deeply resentful of his father’s abandonment when he was a child, and resents his friend Thomas for admiring his father for things like eating 15 pieces of fry bread in one sitting.

Victor struggles to find his…

By Sherman Alexie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Smoke Signals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Book by Alexie, Sherman


Book cover of The First Oregonians

Tom Fuller Author Of Oregon at Work: 1859-2009

From my list on Oregon pioneer history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been a history lover. Since my 7th-grade teacher brought history to life I have been interested in a wide variety of topics and times. After living in Oregon for twenty-five years I found myself wanting to contribute to the cataloging of this great state’s history. The niche I discovered was to explore the world of work over Oregon’s history. Researching Oregon at Work: 1859-2009 I spent many hours across kitchen tables with the descendants of Oregon pioneers. They had boxes of ancient documents and photographs on their side, I came equipped with my laptop and scanner. Through this process, I researched thousands of documents, books, maps, diaries, photos, and more. I became an expert on the subject and my interest only grew.

Tom's book list on Oregon pioneer history

Tom Fuller Why did Tom love this book?

I love the authenticity of this book. The voices are of First Residents, not settlers. It gives the reader the inside story as to what native Oregonians thought of incoming pioneers and how they impacted tribal life. It captures not only the decimation brought on native tribes but also how they reconstructed and revitalized themselves over time. To truly understand Oregon you must understand its native residents - this book accomplishes that in spades!

By Laura Berg (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The First Oregonians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1991, the Oregon Council for the Humanities published The First Oregonians, the only single-volume, comprehensive history of Oregon’s Native Americans. A regional bestseller, this collaborative project between the council, Oregon tribes, and scholars served as an invaluable reference for teachers, scholars, and general-interest readers before it went out of print in 1996. Now revised and expanded for a new generation of Oregonians, The First Oregonians provides a comprehensive view of Oregon’s native peoples from the past to the present. In this remarkable volume, Oregon Indians tell their own stories, with more than half of the book’s chapters written by…


Book cover of Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law

Stephen L. Pevar Author Of The Rights of Indians and Tribes

From my list on rights of Indian tribes and their members.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1971, when I graduated from law school, I received a fellowship to help staff a Legal Aid office on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I lived there for nearly four years, representing tribal members in tribal, state, and federal courts. I then worked for 45 years on the National Legal Staff of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). One of my major responsibilities was helping Indian tribes and their members protect and enforce their rights, and I filed numerous cases on their behalf. During that time, I taught Federal Indian Law for more than 20 years and also published The Rights of Indians and Tribes. 

Stephen's book list on rights of Indian tribes and their members

Stephen L. Pevar Why did Stephen love this book?

This book is the “bible” of Federal Indian Law. Mr. Cohen was appointed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and was the first pro-Native Commissioner to hold that post. He took it upon himself and his agency to publish a treatise that Indian tribes and others could rely on to learn about treaties, statutes, and agreements that set forth the rights of Indian tribes and their members.

It’s been updated several times. It is the most authoritative text in the field and is frequently cited by courts and commentators. It doesn’t lend itself to easy reading, however. (My book synthesizes the information contained in the Cohen book and makes it understandable to the non-lawyer.)

By Felix S Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law is an encyclopedic treatise written by experts in the field, and provides general overviews to relevant information as well as in-depth study of specific areas within this complex area of federal law. This is an updated and revised edition of what has been referred to as the ""bible"" of federal Indian law. This publication focuses on the relationship between tribes, the states and the federal government within the context of civil and criminal jurisdiction, as well as areas of resource management and government structure. The 2012 Edition of Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law…


Book cover of Treaty Words: For as Long as the Rivers Flow

Joy Porter Author Of Trauma, Primitivism and the First World War: The Making of Frank Prewett

From Joy's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Treatied spaces research group lead Historian Professor Analyst

Joy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Joy Porter Why did Joy love this book?

This might look like a children’s book, but it is statecraft and diplomacy in action. It expresses big, radically transformative ideas in words simple and charming enough that they can beguile a 10-year-old child.

I was handed the book by its author, Aimée Craft, an Anishinaabe expert on water and professor at the University of Ottawa. She has written with élan and poise a book that is simultaneously ceremony, lesson, and meditation. It conveys the power and value of treaties as the basis of all relationships, treaties made between humans and water, sky and earth, as well as between peoples and animal nations. The aim of these sacred agreements is to ensure collective, reciprocal well-being, or mino bimaadiziwin.

Craft reiterates that vital sets of treatied interrelationships exist between all humans, grandfather sun, grandmother moon, and mother earth, that must be respected for life on earth to persist. So too,…

By Aimée Craft, Luke Swinson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Treaty Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first treaty that was made was between the earth and the sky. It was an agreement to work together. We build all of our treaties on that original treaty.

On the banks of the river that have been Mishomis's home his whole life, he teaches his granddaughter to listen-to hear both the sounds and the silences, and so to learn her place in Creation. Most importantly, he teaches her about treaties-the bonds of reciprocity and renewal that endure for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the rivers flow.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Luke Swinson…


Book cover of Laughing Boy: A Navajo Love Story

Grant Carrington Author Of Down in the Barraque

From my list on non-sci-fi that a sci-fi writer likes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a computer programmer (BA and MA in math) for several organizations, including NASA and the Savannah River Ecology Lab before retirement, went to the Clarion and Tulane SF&F Workshops, and read the slush pile for Amazing/Fantastic. I’ve done a lot of theatre as actor and lighting tech, have always liked to hike in the woods, have written 11 novels (including 3 published SF novels), had 5 plays given full production, and have 2 CDs of my original songs. In my copious spare time, I sleep.

Grant's book list on non-sci-fi that a sci-fi writer likes

Grant Carrington Why did Grant love this book?

LaFarge’s first novel, Laughing Boy, about the love affair between a reservation Indian and one who had been raised in a religious school, won the 1930 Pulitzer Prize. LaFarge spent much of his life fighting for Native American rights, sometimes in the “dark of Washington.” I wanted to grow up to be an Indian. I still do.

By Oliver La Farge, Wanden Lafarge Gomez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laughing Boy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize: “A romantic idyll played out in the rhythms and meanings of a vanished Navajo world.” —The Denver Post

Laughing Boy is a model member of his tribe. Raised in old traditions, skilled in silver work, and known for his prowess in the wild horse races, he does the Navajos of T’o Tlakai proud. But times are changing. It is 1914, and the first car has just driven into their country. Then, Laughing Boy meets Slim Girl—and despite her “American” education and the warnings of his family, he gives in to desire and marries her.
 
As…


Book cover of Moccasin Trail

Emily Hayse Author Of These War-Torn Hands

From my list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I can remember, I've been captivated by the American West. Was it that cowboys were brave and if you had integrity it was most certainly put to the test? Was it that everyone rode horses and I was a horse crazy girl? Whatever it was that struck me, it stayed. I have treasured the West ever since, through books, film, art, and most recently, a fantasy western trilogy of my own. 

Emily's book list on capturing the poignant beauty of the American West

Emily Hayse Why did Emily love this book?

This historical fiction novel features nineteen-year-old Jim Keath, born white, but rescued and adopted by the Crow when he was badly wounded by a bear. He lives as a trapper now, avoiding both sides of his life, but when his younger siblings write to him, asking for his help in staking a land claim, he can't run from his past anymore. The story deals beautifully and honestly with human nature, the harsh realities of survival in Oregon Territory, and the importance of family. And the stark western landscape plays a large part in the story.

By Eloise Jarvis McGraw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Moccasin Trail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

A pioneer boy, brought up by Crow Indians, is reunited with his family and attempts to orient himself in the white man's culture.